The Dutch market for aircraft, parts, associated equipment, and services can be broken down into commercial and military sectors. Both sectors are transparent, making it relatively easy to identify the key players. Nevertheless, U.S. companies should consider working with a local representative in order to take advantage of upcoming opportunities in a timely manner. Although competition is strong, U.S. suppliers with advanced technology and a good price/quality ratio can expect to do well in the Netherlands.
The Dutch are receptive to U.S. made aviation products, which are well known for their innovation and quality. Price, quality and after-sales service are the dominant purchasing factors in addition to compliance to EU regulations.
Furthermore, it is important to work with a local partner or to consider opening a local sales office. A reputable agent with good contacts can provide important and timely information, which is often not readily available through public sources. In addition, in light of complicated tender and import procedures, it can be challenging to beat the competition and sell effectively without a competent agent. Companies choosing local representatives can expect to benefit from their knowledge of the market, local technical expertise, existing customer base, local marketing and sales experience, and services such as installation, maintenance, training, and after-sales service.
U.S. exporters should be aware of a growing reluctance in the Netherlands to work with ITAR-regulated products and technologies. The lead-time to obtain an export license approval for products is long. A lead time of six-to-eight weeks is deemed acceptable, but in practice, customers at the Ministry of Defense and the National Police are waiting 12-16 weeks, or longer.
Current Market Trends and Demand
Aviation remains a growth sector due to its increasing economic interest and importance to the Netherlands. Schiphol is Europe’s second-best connected airport and the second-best hub for international travel worldwide. It is among the top five busiest airports in Europe and the airport authority expects further passenger and freight growth going forward.
In terms of military opportunities, the Dutch Government has committed to incrementally increase defense spending by €1.5 billion between 2019-2023, with a one-time increase of €1.2 billion in 2019 and an annual increase of €162 million in the following years. Opportunities are outlined in a national plan laid out by the Ministry of Defense, which lists the top five Dutch defense priorities: the procurement of additional F-35s, reinforcement of land capabilities through investment in direct and indirect firing power, strengthening of maritime capabilities through investment in ballistic missile defense capabilities, additional enablers for their Special Operations Forces (on ground and in air, including an additional rotary wing), and the expansion of capabilities in the cyber and information domain.
Future military opportunities are normally outlined in the Defense Program Overview (DPO). An English version of the DPO is available on request from the U.S. Commercial Service at the Embassy in The Netherlands. The 2018 Defense White Paper offers a more long-term overview of all the opportunities between 2018 and 2033. In light of the large number of programs on the horizon, companies are advised to review the list posted here.
Woensdrecht Air Base is mainly used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force as a training and logistical base. It is also well known as the Dutch Air Force’s logistics center and became the spare parts warehouse for all F-35 in Europe as of November 2019. Woensdrecht Air Base also has one civilian user, Fokker Services, which provides maintenance, primarily but not exclusively for Fokker aircraft. As a result of the presence of Fokker Services, many Fokker aircraft are usually present at the airfield. The Royal Netherlands Air Force mainly operates the Pilatus PC-7 for initial training from this Air Base.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), is increasing in the Netherlands. The Dutch government is developing regulations to classify and track UAVs. Law enforcement and the military are seeking technologies that will counter hostile UAV-threats.
The Dutch established an aerospace innovation hub called Aviolanda to support and stimulate the national aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) sector. This initiative aims to develop the Netherlands as a premier location for state-of-the-art industrial maintenance, logistical processes, and repair in both civil and military aviation. An ongoing project at Aviolanda is the Dutch Drone Center which is a public-private partnership primarily aimed at safe testing and demonstrating of drones within a controlled airspace. This unique location provides professional drone developers and companies the opportunity to further develop their unmanned aerial systems and associated applications. Demonstrations with drones for potential customers are also possible, both for certificated and non-certificated systems or companies. The center also drives innovation and development in the fields of MRO; electronics; development production, and assembly of parts; training and education; certification; and logistics.
Amsterdam Drone Week (international conference and exhibition)
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
December 1-3, 2020
NIDV Exhibition Defense & Security (national conference and exhibition)
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
November 19, 2020
U.S. Commercial Service – The Netherlands
Senior Commercial Specialist